Cookie dough ice cream, cookie dough milkshakes, cookie dough truffles, cookie dough-flavored snack bars… Let’s face it: Americans love cookie dough as much as—if not more than—cookies themselves. And really—what’s the point of baking your own cookies if you don’t get to lick the batter off the beaters before tossing them in the sink?
But everyone knows this batter-licking habit is kind of a no-no. The risk of food poisoning by Salmonella in eggs is no secret, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have long warned against indulging in spoonfuls of raw cookie dough. Salmonella infected over 1 million patients in 2013 and caused 378 deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Salmonella bacteria is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in America, according to the FDA. Symptoms usually include diarrhea, fever, and vomiting, and can last several days to a week. Learn more about symptoms of food poisoning here.
Some people will recover from Salmonella without medical treatment, although they run the risk of becoming dehydrated during that time. (Here are ways to prevent dehydration when you have a stomach bug.)
However, raw cookie dough poses an extreme risk for people with weakened immune systems, which may not be able to handle this kind of foreign invader in the body. Salmonella poisoning from eating a contaminated egg can cause complications and even death in infants, older adults, and certain chronic illnesses (for example, type 2 diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis C.)
But, It’s Not Just Eggs You Need to Worry About
Ah, so you think you’ve outsmarted the system by making eggless cookie dough. Well, not so fast.
The CDC and FDA warn that even eggless or vegan cookie doughs can make you susceptible to food poisoning. In 2016, an outbreak of food poisoning affected people across the country with a strain of E. coli.
The source? Not eggs! It turns out, flour was to blame: It had been infected because animal waste had contaminated a wheat field, according to the FDA. (Yeah, that’s gross.) Ten million pounds of flour were recalled.
How Bad Is It to Eat Raw Dough?
You might be thinking, “But I eat raw cookie dough all the time and I’ve never gotten sick!” It’s totally true: You could potentially eat it 127 times and never get food poisoning from Salmonella or E. coli. However, it’s really a game of Russian roulette. It only takes one contaminated egg (or cup of flour) to botch your batter, and you won’t know until it’s too late.
Whether cookie dough, brownie batter, or funfetti cake mix, the FDA recommends never eating any raw batter that’s meant to be cooked or baked. Wash hands and dishes after working with raw eggs. Here are more cooking tips to prevent food poisoning.
Finally, some good news: Commercially sold cookie dough ice cream is safe. It’s been treated to kill off potential bacteria. We’ll take two scoops in a cone, please and thank you.